Reviewed by: Michael Kauronos
|Featuring||Justin Chatwin, Marcia Gay Harden, Margarita Levieva, Chris Marquette, Michelle Harrison|
|Director||David S. Goyer|
|Producer||Peter Possne, William Beasley, Neal Edelstein|
“Life, death and something in between.”
“The Invisible” is marketed as a teen-aged ghost story, but it is actually a social commentary on loss and broken families. David Goyer’s film is based on a Swedish movie Den Osynlige which in turn was based on the Swedish novel by Mats Wahl about a young loner who is nearly killed by a group of Nazi sympathizing skinheads.
Goyer’s film keeps the same basic plot line, but it changes the skinheads to simple punks. They savagely beat Nick Powell (Justin Chatwin) within inches of his life and hide the body. Nick has an out-of-the-body experience and wanders the Earth in search of recognition so that he can rescue his body before it dies.
Compounding Nick’s metaphysical problems are his real-life problems. His father died when he was 13 and he has since been dominated by his coldly efficient mother who expresses her love by giving him things. In the first scene of the movie, we see his birthday being celebrated. When he leaves the table, no one notices and there begins the theme of the “invisible.”
Annie Newton (Margarita Levieva) is the head of the juvenile delinquents who deal in (hold on to your seats) contraband cell phones. She makes money off selling stolen goods while Powell makes money off selling essays he writes in French. Nick has lost his father; Annie lost her mother. There the similarities end. Nick’s aspirations are to enter a writing program in London, while Annie’s aspirations are indeed invisible. Her father is an insensitive brute who has married a lazy woman. Annie is in a relationship with a small-time criminal and her only redeeming trait is that she loves her little brother. However, in the presence of so much hatred, a little love means only that her character isn’t pure evil.
Nick begins to haunt her like a conscience and Annie eventually hears his voice. The repetition of his haunting compels her to do the right thing and in the end she redeems herself. In between, there are numerous scenes of self-indulgent emotional violence consisting of screaming, whining, smashing of objects, and anguished looks.
As a ghost story, it’s terribly ineffective. Without revealing too much, the director manipulates the audience’s expectations then immediately reverses what he just showed. The first time, it was an effective technique; the third and fourth times it was annoyingly predictable and showed a lack of imagination on the director’s part as to how to use the ghost gimmick.
As a movie of teen-age angst and loss, as an allegory of the search for identity in oneself and affirmation in others, the movie was more successful. In one of the opening scenes, Marcel Proust’s novel, In Search of Lost Time is mentioned. The point of Proust’s great novel is that life only has meaning in so far as one can remember one’s past. There is no certain future. The remembrance of the past rests in a taste, a smell, or an object. Nick remembers his father through the tokens of photographs and a small bottle of earth, while Annie has nothing to remember her mother by except her gravestone. They recognize in one another the quality of invisibility: a secret pain which no one can see but themselves. Annie finally becomes “visible” to Nick when she redeems herself.
The worldview of “The Invisible” is existentialism. There is no God, only this life, and according to the tenets of existentialism life only has meaning in so far as one can act in a meaningful way. As you might expect in a movie whose philosophy is that life is meaningless, the tone is unrelentingly depressing. One of the songs on the soundtrack is “I will follow you into the dark” by Death Cab for Cutie which contains the stanzas:
Love of mine some day you will die
But I’ll be close behind
I’ll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark
If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs
In the metaphysics of the song, Heaven and Hell are closed, and only darkness exists as an open possibility. “The Invisible” has no answer to the problem of life and provides no meaning for its teenage audience. To compensate for a pointless existence, Nick writes poetry while Annie commits senseless acts of violence. Even “love” is shown to be false: Nick’s mother’s love is an extension of her ego; his girlfriend’s love is lust; Annie’s seeming love for him at the end is a desire to atone for her brutality. Consequently, in a universe without God, without hope, without a future, Nick Powell and Annie Newton can experience only pain, loss, and darkness.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.